Learning to fly solo

Forward looking organisations are increasingly recognising that they have a duty of care to help executives make the, often difficult, transition from corporate life to an independent career. The GlidePath Service helps them through this transition and equips them to operate in their new and very different business environment.

The first time I flew solo was a slightly scary experience. The plane was an old, dilapidated Cessna 150, a two-seater Citroen 2CV of the air. It was raining and I was nervous. My instructor had, unbeknown to me, inadvertently left his seat belt dangling from the passenger door when he got out of the aircraft. As soon as I was airborne the belt buckle started banging loudly against the fuselage whenever I tried to turn the aircraft. I imagined structural failure and imminent death. But the 20 hours of hands-on flying experience I had under my belt, designed to equip me for just this day, saw me through. I landed the aircraft safely, albeit slightly traumatised…… and when I discovered the belt buckle hanging out of the door, somewhat pissed off with my instructor.

Much of Corporate life is about flying. An acquaintance of mine, with a senior role, seems to spend his life flying from one meeting to another around the globe. Not sure entirely why but hey that’s Corporate life for you (excuse the cynicism). Of course he’s not flying solo. Someone’s booked the tickets, arranged the meeting, paid for the tickets, for the hotels, for the restaurants….well for everything really and what’s more they pay him…..a lot. And whilst he sits on the plane, no doubt catching up on the hundreds of email that he receives daily, he is (relatively) secure in the knowledge that his business (the one from which he enjoys patronage) is continuing to thrive.

But what happens when our corporate man or woman, extensively trained at the best business schools and with 30+ years of business experience under their belt finishes with corporate life (through choice or necessity)? For some, retirement beckons, but for many the idea of unlimited golf holds little appeal. Rather they seek to establish themselves as an independent business entity, capitalising on their past business experience, possibly contemplating NED or consulting roles, and probably wanting part time or ad hoc work rather than full time.

In other words, they’re about to fly solo.

But little do they know that they are completely unprepared. They have been cocooned in an environment which is collegiate in style and has a well- established support infrastructure which provides them with everything from IT to cups of tea. They have a prestigious job title that commands respect and work for an organisation whose brand name opens doors. They might work for an entrepreneurial organisation, but they are not entrepreneurs. They have a portfolio of business skills and an extensive corporate network but all too often have lost sight of, or moved on from, their core competence.

Now ask them to take the flight controls. No support. No brand. No executive job title. No colleagues. No core proposition. No independent network.

Surprisingly some make it. Some intuitively know how to fly solo. It’s not so very difficult, to be honest, but it does take nerve to pull the stick back and take to the air. You can’t park in a lay-by to gather your thoughts or check the flying manual.

But what about those executives who lack self- confidence or are simply unprepared for the transition? What can and should be done to prepare them for independent business life? Whilst the change in demographics has, in all but a very few organisations, meant that the risk and responsibility for funding a life time pension has shifted to the individual, forward looking businesses now recognise that they do, at the very least, have a duty of care to their executives in preparing them for the next stage in their careers….the stage after full time corporate life. They recognise that executives who are beginning the glide path (one that may take many years) from full time employment through part time, independent working to eventual retirement, need coaching and support to prepare them for the first and most challenging phase, namely the transition from their corporate environment into their new, independent world.

At Executive Alumni, we provide these executives with a customised programme (the GlidePath Service) to help them make that transition, to understand and embrace the new independent environment, and to give them the confidence to ‘fly solo’. And beyond that we provide these executives with a channel to market to assist them in finding interesting and fulfilling roles and assignments.